(WSVN) – It has been five years since the winds of Hurricane Irma devastated the Florida Keys.
When Hurricane Irma made landfall in Cudjoe Key, the category four hurricane quickly turned deadly.
Officials gathered at Marathon International Airport on Thursday to share a message with the South Florida community. Administrators from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), National Hurricane Center and city leaders spoke at the meeting.
“During that time it was about survival,” said Lieutenant Colonel Alfredo Escanio with the FWC. “Politics was out of it. “
The storm surge and wind barreled in with unwavering force; lives were changed as homes were ripped apart and boats scattered the highway like litter but hope persevered.
“Irma broke their homes but it didn’t break their spirit,” said Jamie Rhome with the National Hurricane Center. “It didn’t break their way of life, charm or hospitality. That is the epitome of resilience.”
Officials urged the importance of planned evacuations on the fifth anniversary of the destructive hurricane.
“Supporting the people who have to stay in the county to reopen and prepare is a monstrous job,” said Monroe County Mayor David Rice. “Supporting the general public who decided not to evacuate is near impossible.”
The path of Irma’s destruction was difficult to forget; the hurricane caused 92 deaths in the U.S., including 14 in Monroe County and 21 in Broward County.
Among those deaths were 12 people at the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center; the nursing home patients died from the sweltering heat and lack of air conditioning.
Officials reminded people why leaving when told is the key to salvation during any natural disaster.
“Your structure may very well withstand a hurricane but what you won’t like about the hurricane is the day after,” Representative Jim Mooney. “When you walk out your front door and do not recognize what’s around you see things completely destroyed around you. There’s no electricity the waters down the sewers down.”
One important lesson that the officials learned from Hurricane Irma is that the Marathon Emergency Operations Center (EOC) could not withstand the power of the natural disaster.
The county plans on building a new EOC building on the west end of Marathon Airport property.
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